Arms deal benefits the spotlight

2013-08-20 17:19
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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Pretoria - Equipment acquired in the multi-billion rand arms deal was critical to South Africa’s defence system, a senior SA Navy officer said on Tuesday.

Rear Admiral Alan Green told the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the arms deal the navy would not have been able to fulfil its mandate without that equipment.

"The benefits of having the equipment that we identified was that we would be able to execute the operations that we deemed fit," he said.

"That would enable us to protect our people and their integrity."

The equipment would also serve as a deterrent against South Africa’s aggressors.

"If we have the deterrent material, something with which we can deter others, then that is the policy which assures that we ought to be safe."

Through the strategic defence procurement package, commonly referred to as the arms deal, the defence department acquired equipment including corvettes, submarines, Agusta A109 light utility helicopters, Hawk trainer aircraft, and Gripen light fighter aircraft.

Green said from its establishment in 1994, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) did not have large combat vessels and had to use "rather aged off-shore patrol vessels".

"The absence of a clearly defined military threat does not mean that the SANDF had no requirement for rejuvenation. Threats usually appear unexpectedly and do not always allow for long leads of time to acquire combat systems which include the equipment and the competent operators."

Activist’s bid cut short

Earlier, the commission rejected a bid by arms activist Terry Crawford-Browne to cut short its work. Commissioner Thekiso Musi said Crawford-Browne's application asked the commission to ignore its terms of reference.

Crawford-Browne read a letter to the commission in the morning in which he lodged various complaints and made a number of suggestions.

Commission chair Judge Willie Seriti said he received the letter on Monday. Crawford-Browne said there were 23 points in the letter.

Musi went through some of the points and his objections to them.

Crawford-Browne had asked, among other things, that the commission write to President Jacob Zuma stating that the arms deal contracts were illegal.

"This is the matter of investigation. There isn't any conclusive evidence on this point," Musi said.

Crawford-Browne alleged that some of the equipment bought was inoperable and sitting in storage and called for all contracts to be cancelled. Musi said these were allegations the defence force had been called to clarify.

"This can't be regarded as fact," he said.

Contracts could not be cancelled on the basis of allegations.

"Before making findings and recommendations we need to investigate the alleged bribery and fraud. We can't make recommendations before."

There was no merit to Crawford-Browne's application and Musi recommended that Seriti dismiss it. Seriti said he was not inclined to grant the application.

"Therefore his request is rejected."

President Zuma appointed the commission in 2011 to investigate alleged corruption in the 1999 multi-billion rand arms deal.

Read more on:    sandf  |  terry crawford-browne  |  willie seriti  |  jacob zuma  |  arms deal

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